[This is second in my series about one of our client’s success stories].Leadership for America is the Heritage Foundation’s ten-year campaign theme. Heritage is the most prominent conservative think tank in the country, and is based in Washington, DC, just blocks from the nation’s Capitol. Heritage was selected by the authors of Forces For Good, a 2007 best selling book on the six common practices of the top 12 high impact nonprofits. In addition to the Heritage Foundation, among those chosen were Feeding America (also a former client of Hartsook); the Environmental Defense Fund; Exploratorium (San Francisco’s Science Museum); National Council of La Raza; Teach for America; and others.So in 2007, when Heritage was named a top institution, why would they hire a company like Hartsook? The answer to that is that they are constantly seeking to improve and frankly, wanted to enhance their major gift fundraising. Over the past 6 years, Heritage has raised over $544 million and last year completed the year with a record, $115 million including cash, pledges and estate commitments. This is up from $47 million in 2006.You are going to see some themes repeating themselves as we discuss these successes. If you have not read Forces For Good, read it. It is probably the most important nonprofit management book written to date. By the way, the authors, Leslie Crutchfield and Heather McLeod Grant, have just updated the book and reported on the success of each of the nonprofits. Heritage was one of just a few that had continued to grow and in fact had more than doubled in size.Here are six of the reasons Heritage is successful.1. The mission is well understood, appreciated, valued and respected by all who work there. In fact, the mission is repeated in the elevators for all to see. Each day, a listing of activities that are taking place in the building is posted. Activities might include a briefing for a foreign ambassador, collaboration with other similar organizations, entertaining congressmen, senators and yes, once in a while a president or vice president.2. There is very little development staff turnover. Two people have held the Vice President for Development position since I have been with Heritage and the current one was promoted from within. They are unique in having a former Vice President for Development who has been promoted to Vice President and Senior Counsel, preserving an institutional history and long-term relationship so often missing from organizations. By the way, in the research side of the organization of over 275 staff, half are policy-related.3. This is going to surprise you, but the third reason for their success has been an incredible balancing of my passion for professionalism. Their major gift staff of 15 or so (overall staff of 50) did not come from a professional fundraising background. But this is what Heritage does so well: they spend money on training and education. Part of my relationship is to mentor many of the regional fundraising staff and leadership. They are also exposed to the Bill Sturtevants, Robert Sharps and others, but they do it from a Heritage perspective and a Heritage fundraising context. So part of their strength is that they build their own. While they lack some of the philanthropy foundation, they also don’t have to deal with the overly technique-driven fundraising professional education. This makes them markedly more innovative, creative and strategic.4. They have developed a “three legged stool” of direct response (which isn’t my strength, so I do little consulting on this), major gifts, and estate gifts. Interestingly enough, much of their growth in gifts has occurred by thinking bigger, giving donors pledge opportunities, and aggressively going after designations in their members’ estates (their donor’s average age is 70+ years).Last year $74 million was raised in cash (about 55% direct response and 45% major gifts); $30 million in estate gifts and designations ($6 million in realized estate gifts and $24 million in designations and quantifications); and $11 million in pledges totaling $115 million. They have a goal of having up to 30% of each next year’s major gift cash goal already pledged and growing their realized estate giving and designations to 40% of their fundraising. In addition, their fundraising team raised $6 million in cash gifts for Heritage Action for America (Heritage Foundation’s affiliated sister organization which lobbies for the conservative policy ideas Heritage comes up with).5. No client is more engaged in helping their consultant understand what they are doing from a policy and marketing perspective. Of course, I have not been retained to give opinions or direction, but understanding the process, direction and plans is extremely helpful in being “smart” about fundraising opportunities.6. The fundraising staff is engaged in researching the donor’s capacity, interest, and likelihood, and they think from the donor’s perspective. Five years ago, their major gift team was tasked with $10,000, $20,000 and maybe a $50,000 gift. Today, they regularly bring in $100,000, $500,000 and even million and multi-million dollar gifts.So the themes continue. As Heritage demonstrates, fundraising success is a combination of leadership’s commitment, education and training of staff, valuing the individual, and high aspirations.
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